Resident Spotlight: Dr. Nicholas Monfries

Hey, Residents!

For the month of July, we are doing a two-part special feature around negotiations. The first of two we interviewed was our president, Dr. Nicholas Monfries, who was deeply involved in the negotiations process for the 2019-2022 Collective Agreement. As a PGY-4 in Emergency Medicine (PGY-3 at the time of negotiations), Dr. Monfries has certainly been busy this past year! Read on to find out more about his decision to run for President during a negotiations year, the experience of negotiations themselves, and balancing his life with residency, presidency, and negotiations all in play.

Keep an eye out for part two with Negotiations Committee member Dr. Grace Qiao later this month!

You came on as the Resident Doctors of BC President in a year of negotiations for a new Collective Agreement. Did this being a negotiations year play a part in your decision to run as President?

It definitely played a major part in my decision to run for President. Having completed medical school in another province, I had some idea of the discrepancies in resident compensation across different provinces. Given we are all completing similar work regardless of our residency program location, I was particularly determined to learn more about how we can work toward improving the agreement in B.C. I began my involvement with RDBC early in my R1 year, serving on the Council of Program Representatives and then on the Board of Directors the next year, which allowed me to learn more about our collective agreement and the negotiations process. Working with our resident and staff team members over the past several years preparing for negotiations was an incredible experience. I was honoured to be selected to serve as President this year and I believe the work of the current and past Board members, CoPR representatives, Official Observers, and our awesome staff resulted in significant improvements in our collective agreement.

What have been the most challenging aspects of being a busy resident, and the RDBC President during a year of negotiations? What have been some interesting experiences you’ve learned from?

As I’m sure all our members will attest to, residency is busy! I think it can be easy to forget all of the responsibilities that we have as residents that occur outside of our clinical hours, including studying, attending academic sessions, and completing research projects. While I was usually able to schedule the many meetings and RDBC functions around my clinical duties, it was definitely hard keeping up with my other resident responsibilities and trying to maintain a work/life healthy balance.

I should note that I was not alone in this scheduling challenge, as there are many residents who are very involved with RDBC, especially the residents on our negotiations team. Our negotiations team members had to put a significant amount of time into the bargaining meetings (including some that ran as late as 2am!) and occasionally had to use vacation, lieu, and flex days to accommodate the daytime meetings. I even know of some negotiations team members who had to be on-call during the meetings.

That being said, we were all proud to be part of the negotiation of the new collective agreement. I have also learned so much about collective bargaining, medical leadership, the provincial government, and the health system, I am grateful to have been involved.

I would have to say the most interesting experience during this past year was having the opportunity to speak with many stakeholders, including key politicians and talk about the role and challenges that resident doctors experience. A highlight was traveling to Victoria to meet with Health Minister Adrian Dix, the first time RDBC has had an official meeting with the Health Minister in several years!

One the challenges that we face as an organization is the lack of understanding of resident doctors and residency training, despite our significant role in the healthcare system. It was nice to have the opportunity to explain residency in more detail with government officials, but I encourage all of our members to continue to share with their patients, colleagues and family the role of resident doctors.

What words of wisdom would you offer to the RDBC President in the year 2022, when our new Collective Agreement is set to expire?

Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more! Preparing well developed and evidence-based proposals to present to the employer is key to a successful negotiations process. In addition, it is crucial to have an understanding how our healthcare system is structured and to have an appreciation of the priorities of the government and the health authorities. By understanding the position of all parties in collective bargaining, we are better able to develop reasonable and actionable proposals for change.

It is also critical to engage with members and seek to understand the many priorities of residents in programs across BC. As we have resident doctors who train in a wide variety of practice locations and disciplines, it is important to reach out to members and programs who may be underrepresented in RDBC committees, to ensure we create proposals that reflect the interests of all members.

It is also important to engage with our external stakeholders and continue building positive relationships with our key stakeholders including the government, UBC, and our employer.

Finally, the time commitment involved with negotiations is significant. I would strongly recommend discussing the commitment with your program and work together with your PD to balance the time commitment with your clinical duties. At the end of the day, being involved in negotiations is a rewarding and informative experience, but it should not come at the expense of your training as a resident. I am grateful to my program and my program director for allowing me to be involved with RDBC and working around my many commitments.

What are your plans for the future—both personally as a resident, and in terms of being involved with RDBC?

I look forward to continuing my training in Emergency Medicine here in Vancouver, as well as pursuing a fellowship in Pediatric Emergency Medicine. With regards to RDBC, we have a lot of exciting changes happening at our organization, including governance changes and a new strategic plan that are rolling out over the next Board term. I look forward to continuing my involvement with RDBC and working with our incoming Board as the Immediate Past-President.

author: Sasha Zalyvadna